Electronic Discovery – Processing

In previous electronic discovery articles, I discussed the Subpoena/CID, the Identification of Custodians, Collection, Chain of Custody and a Forensic Image.

This article is the first of several where I will discuss topics related to the processing of electronic discovery. The term “processing” encompasses many steps which can make it one of the most difficult topics to teach to newbies in litigation support.

Each service provider who processes electronic discovery has their own internal workflow procedures. However, one of the first steps is to provide their processing tool with the server location for a portion of the electronic data that was collected. The data is going to consist mostly of email files. See my previous article entitled Electronic Discovery – E-mail, E-Docs, Loose Docs and Non-E-mail.

Electronic discovery data (EDD) is usually processed one custodian at a time. There may also be instances where a second delivery (or wave) of data from the same custodian may arrive at a later time. That is okay, as there are procedures to deal it.

One of the things I find funny in our industry is that we like to make up nicknames, phrases and acronyms. The funny part is that we can switch from one workplace to another and not know some of the lingo being used. We end up having to translate and compare terminology we learned previously. I remember the first time I heard the term “WAG”. An experienced litigation support professional had taught the term to one of my students. It meant “wild ass guess”.

Another term I learned years ago was the phrase “ripping e-mail”. It is part of the “processing” stage and the definition is:  “The procedures used to unbundle email collections into individual emails during the e-discovery process while preserving authenticity and ownership.” However, I can guarantee that there are plenty of people in our industry that have processed email and have never heard of this “nickname”.

Let's look at a few definitions of “processing”.

The EDRM Processing Guide defines it as: “Perform actions on ESI to allow for metadata preservation, itemization, normalization of format, and data reduction via selection for review.”

My friend Jon Canty defines it as: “Processing is the automated or manual means of normalizing electronic files for attorney review, production and subsequent printing. The process almost always includes the forensically sound extraction of the file, metadata and text. It can, but not always includes conversion to an accessible image format, followed by OCR, and bates stamping.”

My friend Bowe Kurowski defines it as: “Processing gets all of the best parts of information out of data–text and metadata. After data is uploaded, servers will churn through all of the data to make it usable and searchable by you during review.”

Why do we need to process electronic discovery? Well, our goal is to get the electronic documents we collected into a format that we can easily load into a document database so that attorneys can review them for relevance.



  1. I like to refer to processing as really the first phase in the EDRM model of the metamorphosis of unstructured data to a structured one. I have heard the term “ripping” e-mails but not in years. During my early days of processing and teaching others and if someone still did not understand the basics I would use the acronym “RTFM”

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